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After We Stop the Machine, How Do We Create a New World?

Countless numbers of us are building the world we want every day.

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We are inspired by the human potential to create, even in dire economic circumstances, illustrated by this story of children from a slum dwelling in Paraguay.  Out of the trash in the landfill their community is built upon, they created the “Landfill Harmonic Orchestra.” This amazing video tells their story. There is no question that part of building the world we want to see includes music, arts and culture.

Of course, at the root of many problems in the United States is the economy. We are experiencing in the US what our government has forced onto poorer nations for decades, the accelerated selling off of our resources and privatization of government services. This, combined with de-funding of public institutions, is creating greater wealth for a few while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.

The looting class believes that there is no threat of democracy breaking out when people are poor and focused on meeting their basic needs. But economic democracy is quietly expanding throughout the United States. We are two of the organizers of the Economic Democracy Conference which is part of the Democracy Convention being held in Madison, WI beginning this August 7. 

Two years ago when we organized a similar conference, economic democracy was beginning to take root in the U.S. Since then, the movement has grown rapidly, under the radar of the corporate media. One-third of the US public is now a member of some type of cooperative, including credit unions. 

This year the Economic Democracy Conference will include 15 sessions. Some will focus on big picture topics such as what the new economy looks like and discussions of money and debt, while others will focus on the building blocks of the new economy, cooperatives, complementary currencies, public banks, affordable housing, local investment networks and other ways to finance local businesses and transitioning to municipal renewable energy. (You can register here.)

This week, there were a number of economic democracy projects in the news. In Seattle a group, Community Sourced Capital, formed to help people invest in their local community. We know the value of shopping locally, now people are figuring out ways to invest locally to build their communities and avoid Wall Street.

Also, some members of the Occupy movement are launching the Occupy Money Cooperative. Their first product will be the Occupy Money Card, a pre-paid debit card without the costs of a regular bank account which they describe as a “bank on a card.” Forbes took notice of the Money Cooperative, finding it ironic that Occupy would set up a bank. We see it as just the opposite. More alternatives to Wall Street banks are needed and this is one of many models being developed.

Another alternative was announced in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is telling the leading payday loan service, which charges 1% a day for loans, that the Church of England is going to put them out of business by starting its own credit union and working with non-profit loan agencies to provide less expensive loan services. 

In Minneapolis, people have solved one of the big problems caused by the Wall Street banks: the housing crisis. They created an “ eviction free zone,” as the world they want to see does not include throwing families onto the street. Their tactics include pressuring banks, blocking evictions (as with this example), occupying foreclosed homes and refurbishing homes. This kind of mutual support and local solidarity also builds community. The city of Richmond, CA became the first to use its power of eminent domain to seize underwater homes facing foreclosure and return them to the homeowners with reduced mortgage payments.